Parents' Guide to

Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn

By Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Robot-focused expansion for dedicated series fans only.

Game Linux, Mac, Windows 2017
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For players looking to welcome their robot overlords, this expansion provides new races to control, but also ratchets up the difficulty level significantly, making it for hardcore series fans only. Stellaris: Synthetic Dawn lets players release themselves from biological issues, taking a turn as a robotic civilization trying to conquer the universe. It's an interesting switch, especially because you can be somewhat altruistic or destroy anything that isn't synthetic itself. While the alien races won't necessarily have a stronger reaction to you because you happen to be robotic, there are some definite advantages robots have that others don't. For example, robots don't have to worry about food as a resource, allowing players to repurpose those tiles on planets for more pressing concerns, like power or minerals. They also don't have to worry about population growth, because they simply build additional new bots to handle additional tasks. Additionally, players no longer have to worry about robots "dying" of old age or factional unrest, because that doesn't happen to them; they can still be destroyed in combat or by other incidents, but age and some of the "social unrest" issues don't occur in the same ways.

These bonuses don't make Synthetic Dawn any easier for players, though. The largest issue is that there's no tutorial for newcomers on how you run your new AI-driven empire or even get a foothold, so you're going to have to stumble your way through uncovering some of these bonuses. For example, it's very easy to move through a few months of a newly colonized world and not know why your population hasn't grown, only to discover afterward that you need to make them. Further, once you move past the initial curve of learning the intricacies of the robots, the distinctions start to evaporate: There are no Borg cubes to field or sleek-looking ships to build and control, because they look virtually identical to other cultures' vessels. Another problem is that it's easier to run into resource depletion if you're not careful, because droids seem to drain power and resources faster than other races. This makes stockpiling a bigger issue, especially in the early game when you're trying to establish a foothold on your corner of the galaxy. All this said, Synthetic Dawn provides a new challenge for series fans, but it's really a game that will appeal more to the hardcore Stellaris player than a newcomer or occasional space general.

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